Friday, January 23, 2015 8 comments

David Austin's 2015 pick of the posies for American gardeners

Thomas a Becket is a stunner in the landscape (Courtesy David Austin Roses)

I’ve mentioned in the past that when I’m giving a lecture on roses I often begin by telling the audience my presentation could be hazardous to their health.

You see, I know better than most that once rose fever sets in, there is no cure. No matter how many roses one has, there will always be a more appealing one coming up at garden centers or in the 2015 catalogs.

Which means rose fever can also be hazardous to the pocketbook.

I myself contracted a rare strain called English Rose fever while living in London in the early 90’s when I fell in love with a new line of “old fashioned” roses created by David Austin.

Courtesy Chris VanCleave

As a result of a hybridizing program initiated in the 1950’s, he captured the appealing features of Old Garden Roses (roses introduced prior to 1867) such as cupped or rosette-shaped flowers and strong fragrance in bushes that have the repeat bloom and vigor of modern roses.

Now many years later, I still have English Rose Fever.

And it doesn’t help my bank balance that the new David Austin catalogue has just arrived with four new US introductions that look irresistible. These roses have been specially selected to perform well in a variety of growing conditions throughout America.

Maid Marion

We all dream of finding a rose that has the charming form of yesteryear, produces armloads of blooms and is delightfully scented as well.

Maid Marion delivers near perfect blooms all season
‘Maid Marion’ delivers all these attributes and more. 

According to Technical Manager and Senior Rosarian Michael Marriott, ‘Maid Marion’ produces some of the most superbly formed flowers in English Rose history. It is also quick to repeat.

The catalogue tells us the buds start as rounded cups with larger outer petals, enclosing numerous smaller petals within. These open to perfect rosette-shaped flowers in the form of a saucer; the outer petals forming an appealing rounded rim. It produces clear, rose pink flowers from early summer till frost, with a soft myrrh scent that becomes fruitier with a distinct clove character.

Maid Marion grows 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
 The Albrighton Rambler

Rambler roses that repeat bloom from summer into fall are rarities. Those that don’t ramble here, there and everywhere are even more rare.

Now David Austin introduces ‘The Albrighton Rambler’, a well behaved rose that grows from 10 to 12 feet, and offers large sprays of soft pink blooms (with a little button eye) that hang gracefully on the branch. It mixes beautifully with large-flowered climbers on an upright structure and is a perfect choice for arches, pillars, walls – even small trees.

A well behaved rambler that can spread 12 feet or more

It repeats well and is exceptionally healthy. In addition, the flowers are not affected by rain. According to Michael, the ‘Albrighton Rambler’ has a light musky fragrance typical of the Sempervirens hybrids.  Hardy in USDA Zones 7-10.

Thomas a Becket

I love the reds so this is a "must have" for me
This red beauty is a bit different than many English roses in that it is “closer to the Species Roses than to the Old Roses and more natural and shrubby in growth.”

The color is difficult to pinpoint or even photograph but is described as a light red that pales to a carmine red. (I am wondering if it will be similar in shade to Darcey Bussell or Sir John Betjeman. We shall see.)

The Austin team says the individual flowers open as informal rosettes; the petals quickly reflexing as the flowers age. They are held in medium-sized heads; the individual blooms nodding attractively on the stem. They have an Old Rose fragrance with a strong lemon zest character.

Michael says ‘Thomas’ blooms a week or 10 days later than most English Roses, then produces masses of flowers for the remainder of the season. He does caution it may take three years to look its best.  

If I get a bush that eventually looks like one in the photo above, I will be willing to wait! Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

The Lady Gardener

This Lady is said to be a blooming machine
Michael Marriott says this a particularly interesting rose in that it is the first in the English “Old Rose” group to sport apricot flowers. (The Old Rose hybrids were the original English Roses such as ‘Wife of Bath’. They have much of the character of the true old roses – the gallicas, damasks, etc. Prior to The Lady Gardener, the colors by and large were soft shades of pink, crimson and purple.)
The 65-petaled blooms are large, about 4" across, and start out as a rich apricot that pales towards the outside of the bloom.  It is said to produce a “staggering” number of roses, is very healthy and laughs at rain. As a bonus ‘The Lady” has a delicious Tea rose fragrance with hints of cedar wood and vanilla.  Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

So there you go, the English Class of 2015. All these roses are now available for spring delivery to your garden. Have you selected one you can’t live without?

With apologies to my pocketbook, I think I must have them all.

Monday, January 12, 2015 3 comments

Farewell, 2014. It's been a Fab year. Part 2

When we last left my 2014 stroll down Memory Lane, we were contemplating whether or not to cancel our trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Chris was recovering from emergency surgery and an 11-day hospital stay in September. Then, a week before we were to fly out, I was coping with a sinus infection and an abscessed tooth.

Poppy and her gorgeous Mum, Hayley
Wondering what else could possibly go wrong, we made the decision to go for it. On October 15th, we took off for the Land Down Under.

We’d been to Sydney before in 2011 for son Sam’s wedding. Now, part of the reason for the journey was to meet little Miss Poppy Hunt, age 1.

We stayed in a flat overlooking the Sydney Harbour, which meant all the pleasures of the city and surrounding areas were just a ferry ride or stroll away.

Crepuscule (Noisette) at the Royal Botanic Gardens
Love that view of the "Coathanger" bridge

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Mr. Lincoln, Down Under

 One weekend we took a side trip to Kiama where I judged the New South Wales Rose Show in Jamberoo. There I met fellow judge Mark McGuire who invited us to visit his magnificent rose garden in downtown Sydney.

A rose called 'Glorious' took top honors

You can see the Sydney Harbour from this amazing city garden

Alas the time with Sam, Hayley and Poppy flew by, and soon we were back on a plane bound for Auckland, New Zealand.

One of the joys of our visit there was getting together with old friends (new ones for me) Mike and Carolyn from Chris’ days living in Hambledon, England. 

During our week on the North Island we visited Waiheke Island, the Bay of Islands and of course, more beautiful rose gardens.

Tui birds can become drunk and disorderly after too much Kowhai nectar

Captain Cook counted 89 islands here (there are 144)
Me and Syd the cat at the Waterfront Cafe, Paihia
Nancy Steen Heritage Garden in Auckland

Back on the plane, to Christchurch and the South Island. We were shocked and saddened by the devastation that still lingers after the 2011 earthquake.

Francois Juranville (Rambler) at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens
Gorgeous rhododendrons dotted the trails at the gardens

From there we took the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth, then drove to Franz Joseph (home of the glaciers) for the night.

Took these photos hanging off the observation car

The trip to Queenstown was beautiful and scary. Chris failed to tell me a British couple had been swept away crossing the Haast Pass and have yet to be found. 

Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown and the Remarkables mountains

There was a heritage rose trail at Arrowtown

Near Glenorchy

If you have not been to Queenstown, you likely will feel like you’ve visited there. The mountain range,The Remarkables have hosted numerous movies, including Lord of the Rings.

You pass a variety of scenic vistas on the drive back to Christchurch, then turn a corner and there is Mount Cook. 

Fact is New Zealand is so amazingly gorgeous it is difficult for the brain to take it all in.

Was it real or was it a dream?

And how can we top it in 2015?

Oh, one last thing. We also celebrated our 25th anniversary a few days after returning home!